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New York City Travel Guide

New York is often seen as a dynamic, inspiring and ultimately exasperating city. But as an autumn stroll through Greenwich Village or a quiet drink in the King Cole Bar can attest, it’s eminently ...

New York is often seen as a dynamic, inspiring and ultimately exasperating city. But as an autumn stroll through Greenwich Village or a quiet drink in the King Cole Bar can attest, it’s eminently possible to come here for a nice, relaxing stay. Boutique hotels tend to open with a splash then shutter with a whimper, but a handful of classic addresses still delivers stately but comfortable surroundings and uncanny levels of service. The grandes dames of Fifth Avenue, The St. Regis and The Peninsula, frequently cater to a midtown business crowd, while more intimate Upper East Side retreats like The Lowell, The Carlyle, and the Plaza Athénée are perfect for lovers of Central Park and Museum Mile. The sophisticated Baccarat Hotel set in the first 12 floors of a 50-story tower is the most notable debut of the past decade.

Luxury Hotels in New York City

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Best Restaurants in New York City

New York was once home to numerous classic French restaurants, but tastes changed, and one by one, they faded and died — with a single exception. Ensconced in its own townhouse, La Grenouille is better than ever. The elegant and romantic dining room has silk-sheathed walls, plush banquettes and perfect lighting. While the menu abounds with French classics, there is room for innovation in the seasonal daily specials. Perfectly executed signature dishes include fluffy pike quenelles; flaky, tender grilled Dover sole in a gentle mustard sauce; and, of course, the stuffed frogs’ legs Provençale. The dessert soufflés are justifiably celebrated. The wine list is wide-ranging, and the staff’s advice is worth heeding. Closed Sunday and Monday.

3 East 52nd Street New York City Three-course menu, $110 http://www.la-grenouille.com/

When we go to Lincoln Center, I often anticipate a meal at Picholine as much as I do the evening’s performance. I have long admired chef-owner Terrance Brennan, who first came to my attention at his cheese-friendly restaurant Artisanal. Here, you can be assured of a civilized atmosphere and excellent service. Look for starters such as smoked sturgeon panna cotta with beet “carpaccio” and wild American caviar; or Koshihikari (a variety of Japanese rice) “risotto” noir with sea urchin, langoustine and Iberico lardo. Main courses might include lightly cooked wild king salmon with squid dashi, charred spiced cucumber and black garlic. Closed Sunday and Monday.

35 West 64th Street New York City Three-course menu, $105; five-course tasting menu, $135; 10-course tasting menu, $195 http://www.picholinenyc.com/

Although star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees a global empire of restaurants, the quality here never falters. The dining room is a minimalist space with floral arrangements, flattering lighting and large windows facing Columbus Circle. The menu changes regularly, but you can always count on the best ingredients prepared in surprising ways. Look, for example, for dishes such as Santa Barbara sea urchin with black bread, jalapeño and yuzu; black bass crusted with nuts and seeds in a sweet-and-sour jus; and, for carnivores, dry-aged sirloin with white asparagus, crispy onions and a buttery hot sauce. 

Trump International Hotel 1 Central Park West New York City Three-course menu, $130 http://www.jean-georgesrestaurant.com/jean-georges/

In a city where restaurateurs invariably leverage their success, I greatly admire Alfred Portale. He stands steadfast in one place and continues to create wonderful food that is straightforward and delicious. The menu changes seasonally, but among the starters, you can generally find a tuna tartare. The second courses always include a risotto: A recent offering was filled with wild and cultivated mushrooms, pancetta, baby arugula, Gruyère cheese and chervil butter. Among the third courses, the grilled aged New York steak is served with a custard of Dijon mustard, Vidalia onion rings and a Bordelaise sauce. 

12 East 12th Street New York City $90 http://www.gothambarandgrill.com/

Located in a corner of the Gramercy Park Hotel, this restaurant has a lively front bar where you can eat casually, and a slightly more formal main dining room. The wide selection of salumi presents several possibilities for starters, or you can just order the grande selezione (much sourced right in New York and some made in-house). The many pastas include tonnarelli with Pecorino cheese and black pepper, and spaghetti carbonara, with black pepper, egg and guanciale. Among the main courses, do not miss the suckling pig. I love the breakfast when I go to the Union Square Greenmarket. 

2 Lexington Avenue New York City $75. Four-course family-style menu, $80 http://www.maialinonyc.com/

Among the casualties of Hurricane Sandy was this, one of New York’s most beloved restaurants. After 15 months and the expenditure of millions of dollars, the restaurant reopened in February 2014. With its garden of light-bedecked trees, lovely flower arrangements, live piano and incomparable Manhattan backdrop, The River Café is the embodiment of traditional fine dining. We thoroughly enjoyed every bite of our wild shrimp and king crab meat with white asparagus dressed with a Maltaise sauce (Hollandaise inflected with orange), and rack of lamb cooked to pink perfection. 

1 Water Street Brooklyn $120 prix-fixe. Six-course tasting menu, $150 http://www.rivercafe.com/

This elegant space has a bar flanked by a wall of backlit onyx, and a main dining room with rosewood accents and mounted seashells. Chef Michael White is a master of seafood presentations, whether it’s the extensive selection of raw sliced fish; antipasti like Nova Scotia lobster with burrata, eggplant and basil; superb pastas such as gnocchetti with red shrimp, chilies and rosemary; or the main fish dishes, local black bass with garbanzo beans, prosciutto, spring onion and a fennel bagna cauda being a fine example. 

240 Central Park South New York City $90. Four-course menu, $100 http://www.marea-nyc.com/

Set on an otherwise undistinguished block west of Fifth Avenue, this legendary establishment has a brownstone exterior populated with a derby’s worth of colorful jockey figurines. Inside is the embodiment of a congenial club, with a ground-floor lounge and the bar/restaurant itself, its ceiling festooned with corporate “toys” — trucks, planes, trains, cars — bestowed by patrons, plus a long curved bar and red-checked tablecloths. The menu here and in the upstairs dining room features favorites such as the ‘21’ Caesar salad, chicken hash, Dover sole grilled or sautéed, and, from the grill, a 14-ounce 28-day-aged rib eye. The wine cellar contains more than 1,300 selections. Closed Sunday.

21 West 52nd Street New York City $80. Three-course pre-theater bar dinner, $50; four-course menu, $95 http://www.21club.com/web/onyc/21_club.jsp

This recently redesigned dining room houses the city’s finest seafood restaurant. A Midtown oasis run by delightful owner Maguy Le Coze, it attracts business tycoons brokering their deals. They also come for chef Eric Ripert’s extraordinary food. The innovative menu is divided into three categories: “Almost Raw,” “Barely Touched” and “Lightly Cooked.” Among the highlights are yellowfin tuna carpaccio with Iberico ham “chutney,” sea beans and lemon-inflected extra virgin olive oil; and sautéed Dover sole accompanied by almond-pistachio barberry golden basmati rice with a Chardonnay-shallot emulsion. Closed Sunday.

155 West 51st Street New York City $140 prix fixe. Seven-course tasting menu, $170; eight-course chef's menu, $205 http://www.le-bernardin.com/

This wonderful Italian restaurant is set in a townhouse on a quiet side street in Greenwich Village. The dynamos behind its success are chef Mario Batali and partner Joe Bastianich. The downstairs is lively; the more subdued upstairs is one of the most attractive dining rooms in the city. It’s hard to choose a favorite from the primi courses, but the beef-cheek ravioli with squab liver and black truffles is a classic. Among the main courses, grilled branzino with radishes, olives and lemon-oregano jam is a standout. 

110 Waverly Place New York City $70. Seven-course tasting menu, $100; seven-course pasta tasting menu, $85 http://www.babbonyc.com/

This attractive space has a lively front bar area where you can order casual meals — especially pleasant at lunch — and a main dining area. The ever-changing menu features starters such as smoked trout with cipollini purée and pickled onions, and pork Bolognese with garganelli pasta, green garlic and Grana Padano cheese. Main courses might include poached halibut with heirloom beans, scallions and asparagus; or lamb loin and shoulder with green chickpeas, carrots and pistachios. The far-ranging wine list has more than two dozen selections by the glass. 

42 East 20th Street New York City Three-course menu, $90; six-course seasonal menu, $120; six-course vegetarian menu, $100 www.gramercytavern.com/

This elegant offering from chef Michael White is located in the Langham Place hotel on Fifth Avenue (White also presides over Marea and Osteria Morini). The menu changes frequently, but look for pastas such as Trofie Nero, Ligurian-style squid’s ink pasta, with a tangy ragout of squid and scallops. The equally outstanding main courses may include halibut with butter beans, artichokes, cavolo nero and pancetta; or an excellent veal chop with new potatoes, prosciutto and sage. There are more than two dozen wines by the glass. 

400 Fifth Avenue 2nd Level New York City $80. Four-course menu, $100; seven-course chef’s tasting menu, $135 http://www.aifiorinyc.com/

Founded in 1885, this is one of the most atmospheric restaurants in Manhattan, with its ceiling hung with rows of clay churchwarden pipes, the legacy of the famous Pipe Club, whose members included luminaries such as Teddy Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, Stanford White and Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The menu is a carnivore’s delight, with steaks and chops of all varieties. The wine list is well-priced, and there is also a fine selection of single malt whiskies. 

72 West 36th Street New York City $110 http://www.keens.com/

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